Winter 2021 Newsletter

Dear Wellbeing Champion,

As the new year begins, bringing with it deep challenges and opportunities, we write to report the great civic wellbeing work that is underway through it all.

In this newsletter we’re bringing you stories of Wellbeing Microgrant leaders, updates on partnerships, and a spotlight on our team.

13 Wellbeing Microgrant leaders have taken their visions from design to action. Here are some recent highlights from Lizeth, Kathleen, Willa, Maggie & Jane:

Make Your Own Face Mask!

Lizeth Antonio

Lizeth brought fashion design skills and health safety information to her classes. Participants sewed their own masks using the most effective materials for protection against COVID-19.

She found purpose leading a Spanish language class, and fun with a Santa Monica High School group interested in fashion design.


Kathleen Mulcahy

Young entrepreneurs started up their business ideas & online shops on Youthful Savings Marketplace with coaching from Kathleen. After going through the program, of the participants:

80% felt more confident

75% felt more economically empowered!


Willa Wells

Willa knit 25+ shawls for people in Santa Monica, LA, and across the country who have lost family members or are otherwise suffering due to COVID-19.

To request a comfort shawl for you or a loved one, please email Willa.

A Stitch in Time

Maggie Ehrig

Maggie taught small cohorts of kids to sew while providing needed childcare to neighbors in her Community Corporation of Santa Monica building.

The Soilist

Jane Monteagle

Jane shared her composting knowledge with the community, partnering with the Church in Ocean Park, Venaissance, and Growing Hope Gardens at Community Corporation of Santa Monica. She made 30+ new connections through her project!

Watch this Video & Learn More!

What Else is New?

Watch Santa Monica’s Black History Month Kick-Off

Black community leaders introduced the Black Agenda and newly formed nonprofit, the Santa Monica Black Lives Association, whose mission is to promote the wellbeing of the Black community and work toward a more just and equitable Santa Monica.

Watch Now!

Carving the Path to a New Economy

Congrats to our Co-Founder Catalina Langen who was selected as a Changemaker for 36x36!

She'll be working with womxn from around the world to envision a global economic revolution.

A Wellbeing Economy = People & Planet

We are an active member organization of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), and our Founder Julie Rusk is a steering member of the WEAll California Hub.

Learn about key concepts for a wellbeing economy by clicking on the image on the left or by watching this 2min video.

Save the Date!

The Collective Wellbeing Virtual Summit from the Institute for Collective Wellbeing (ICW) is April 29 & 30, 2021.

We'll be there and hope you will too.

We are kicking off a new partnership with ICW based in Madison, WI, starting with MIT’s Presencing Institute’s u.lab 2x process in February. Stay tuned!

Team Member Spotlight

Claire Lemoine

Project Assistant & Intern

Claire has been instrumental in supporting the Microgrant leaders through their projects. She brings insightful, equity-oriented thinking and skills in tutoring students with learning disabilities to her wellbeing work.

Here are her reflections after 6 months on the job:

“I am eternally grateful for my introduction into the world of the wellbeing movement. CWP has allowed me to work with many people and organizations to have a direct impact on addressing systemic inequalities in our community through equity-based solutions.

This opportunity has also helped me grow as an advocate for restorative justice work and given me new ways of thinking about how to create change in our society that supports the overlooked and underserved.”

Meet Out Team

Julie Rusk


Catalina Langen

Co-Founder, Program Manager

Claire Lemoine

Project Assistant

November 2020

Dear Wellbeing Supporter,

With an election behind us, the continued national and local crises of this moment all trace back to the fundamental question we seek to answer: how are people really doing, and what can we do together to improve individual and community wellbeing?

Answering this question requires a shared effort to develop new, equitable models for working together. This includes programming like the Wellbeing Microgrants, designed to empower resident leadership to take action on wellbeing.

It also requires building and sharing knowledge. The new book from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Wellbeing: Expanding the Definition of Progress, features a chapter that I wrote describing Santa Monica's wellbeing work. Order your free copy to learn more about the international wellbeing movement.

In transitioning to a start-up non-governmental organization, Civic Wellbeing Partners builds on what has been started in Santa Monica. To keep you in the loop on our exciting new work, we are starting a bi-monthly newsletter with ongoing events and updates.

We are grateful to the Santa Monica Bay Human Relations Council (HRC) for whole-heartedly partnering and acting as our fiscal receiver.

In your own lives, please be sure to care for yourself and your community- with empathy, humility, and wise action.

Stay in touch and keep sharing your ideas with us.

Be well,

Julie Rusk


Civic Wellbeing Partners

Please read the following important message:

June 18, 2020

Dear Wellbeing Partner, 

We are writing to share that unfortunately, the COVID-19 health pandemic and resulting economic crisis have led to the gutting of the City of Santa Monica’s budget, including the decision to close the Office of Civic Wellbeing.

These crises have also underscored the imperative for a wellbeing framework to guide governance and civic action. The most recent social unrest in the United States calling for racial equity, justice, and accountability demands an understanding of the pervasive inequities across systems and all facets of our lives. This work could never be done by one person; we all need to find a way to get behind wellbeing for the work to truly be realized. This recent article by Sascha Haselmayer offers sobering and thoughtful reflections that may be of interest. In measuring and actively improving community wellbeing together, we address barriers, envision new realities, and ultimately drive to better outcomes. 

The work accomplished in Santa Monica is significant, but nowhere near its completion. We produced the Wellbeing Index thrice (2015, '17, '19). We built strong community partnerships, were adaptive and took action to implement our findings for a more equitable, engaged, and resilient Santa Monica. In January 2017, our newly formed office spearheaded Santa Monica’s active participation in the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) to re-shape city government from the inside. With three cohorts of staff participants from 2017, '18, and 19, these efforts were just taking shape and finally gaining real traction, and we now hope the push for racial equity will truly take hold in this moment. We worked collaboratively on the City's Pico Wellbeing Project (2018-19), an inter-agency and -departmental place-based pilot to use a wellbeing framework in community. This work led to the creation of an equity-focused community engagement playbook for staff, and set a new standard for language access and justice. The Wellbeing Index alone was never meant to be a be-all, end-all solution; the most important thing was how we used the findings – including examples like our Wellbeing Microgrants (2018-20) - hear stories from Microgrant leaders here - and successful inaugural Wellbeing Summit (November 2019) - see footage from the event here

The fact is, this work is needed now more than ever. The social, economic, and political unrest and health crisis of this moment all trace back to the fundamental question we seek to answer: how are people really 
doing and what can we all do together
to improve individual and community 
wellbeing? Answering this question requires a shared effort to develop new models for wellbeing using the vast expertise and partnerships at the ready to move this work forward.

Thank you for the work you do. We hope you continue to advocate for equity, new ways of working, and wellbeing in your community. We’ll be doing the same.

Be well,

Julie Rusk

You can reach me at

Por favor lea el siguiente mensaje importante:

18 de junio de 2020

Estimada/o socia/o de bienestar,

Le escribimos para compartir la desafortunada noticia de que las ramificaciones de la pandemia de salud de COVID-19 y la crisis económica resultante han llevado a recortes al presupuesto de la Ciudad de Santa Mónica, incluida la decisión de cerrar  la Oficina de Bienestar Cívico.

Estas crisis también han subrayado la necesidad de un marco del bienestar para guiar la gobernanza y la acción cívica. Los disturbios sociales más recientes en los Estados  Unidos que solicitan equidad racial, justicia y responsabilidad exigen una comprensión  de las desigualdades en todos los sistemas y todas las facetas de nuestras vidas. Este trabajo nunca podría ser realizado por una sola persona; Todos tenemos que respaldar el bienestar para que el trabajo se realice de verdad. Este artículo por Sascha Haselmayer ofrece reflexiones que pueden ser de interés. Al medir y mejorar  activamente el bienestar, abordamos las barreras, imaginamos nuevas realidades y, en 
última instancia, buscamos mejores resultados.

El trabajo realizado en Santa Mónica es  significativo, pero no está cerca de su finalización. Produjimos el Índice de Bienestar tres veces (2015, ’17, '19). Construimos sólidas alianzas comunitarias, nos adaptamos y tomamos medidas  para implementar nuestros hallazgos para una Santa Mónica más equitativa, involucrada y resistente.  El enero de 2017, nuestra oficina recién formada organizó la participación activa de Santa Mónica en los esfuerzos de la Alianza del Gobierno para la Raza y la Equidad (GARE por sus siglas) para remodelar el  gobierno de la ciudad. Con tres cohortes de participantes del personal de 2017, '18 y 19, estos esfuerzos se estaban formando y ganando tracción real, y ahora esperamos que el impulso por la equidad racial realmente se arraigue en este momento. Trabajamos en colaboración en el Proyecto de bienestar de Pico (2018-19), un piloto interinstitucional y departamental para utilizar un marco de bienestar en la comunidad. Este trabajo condujo a la creación de un libro de jugadas de compromiso comunitario centrado en la equidad para el personal y estableció un nuevo estándar para el acceso al idioma y la justicia. El Índice de Bienestar por sí solo nunca tuvo la intención de ser una solución global; Lo más importante fue cómo utilizamos los hallazgos, incluidos ejemplos como los Microgrants (2018-20) - puede oír las historias de líderes de Microgrant aquí - y la Cumbre de bienestar (nov. 2019) - puede mirar un video del evento aquí.

El hecho es que este trabajo se necesita ahora más que nunca. La agitación social, económica y política y la crisis de salud de este momento se remontan a la pregunta  fundamental que buscamos responder: ¿cómo está realmente la gente y qué podemos hacer todos juntos para mejorar el bienestar individual y comunitario? Responder a esta pregunta requiere un esfuerzo compartido para desarrollar nuevos modelos de bienestar utilizando la vasta experiencia y las alianzas que están listas para avanzar en este trabajo.
Gracias por el trabajo que hacen. Esperamos que continúen abogando por la equidad, nuevas formas de trabajo y bienestar en su comunidad. Haremos lo mismo.
Que esté bien,
Julie Rusk

Me puede contactar en

Wellbeing Microgrants

Anyone who has followed the Wellbeing Microgrants  knows that while $500 is significant, the program is about so much more than money. It’s about the residents who step up, volunteering their ideas, time, and energy to improve community wellbeing and in the process, stepping into the role of changemaker. It’s about cohorts of changemakers supporting one another, learning and growing to positively impact their community.  

This model is just at its beginning, and needs to be expanded and developed to support a wider range of purposes. We are actively seeking funding for the next round of Wellbeing Microgrants. Every community seeking to be a city of wellbeing can make Wellbeing Microgrants a part of their toolkit.

What's next for the Wellbeing Team members?

Julie Rusk will retire from her work inside City government and continue to be a partner and catalyst for the next chapter of wellbeing in Santa Monica and beyond.

Lisa Parson will step into a new position as the City Manager’s Special Assistant for Equity and Community Recovery.

Naomi Urabe will support administration for the City Manager’s Office.

Catalina Langen will support the transition of the wellbeing work to a new entity.

Wellbeing Microgrants

Cualquiera que haya seguido los Microgrants sabe que si bien los $500 son significativos, el programa es mucho más que dinero. Se trata de los residentes que ofrecen sus ideas, tiempo y energía como voluntarios para mejorar el bienestar de la comunidad y en el proceso, asumiendo el papel de creadores de cambios. Se trata de cohortes de creadores de cambio que se apoyan mutuamente, aprenden y crecen para impactar positivamente en su comunidad.

Este modelo está recién comenzando y tiene que ser expandido y desarrollado para soportar una gama más amplia de propósitos. Estamos buscando fondos para la próxima ronda de Microgrants. Cada comunidad que busca ser una ciudad de bienestar puede hacer de Microgrants una parte de su conjunto de herramientas.

¿Qué sigue para los miembros del equipo de bienestar?

Julie Rusk se retirará de su trabajo dentro del gobierno de la Ciudad y continuará siendo socia y catalizadora para el próximo capítulo de bienestar en Santa Mónica y más allá.

Lisa Parson asumirá un nuevo puesto como Asistente Especial del Administrador de la Ciudad para la Equidad y la Recuperación Comunitaria.

Naomi Urabe apoyará la administración de la Oficina del Administrador de la Ciudad.

Catalina Langen apoyará la transición del trabajo de bienestar.

Julie and Catalina are already working to transition civic wellbeing to a non-governmental organization.

We can be reached at

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